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Space & Astronomy

ISS may be de-orbited over the South Pacific

By T.K. Randall
May 7, 2017 · Comment icon 26 comments

The International Space Station has achieved a great deal over the years. Image Credit: NASA
Scientists at NASA have been drawing up plans for the demolition of the International Space Station.
Orbiting between 330 and 435km above the surface of the Earth, the ambitious orbital outpost, which also happens to be the most expensive man-made object ever constructed, has now been housing a crew of astronauts in space for more than 16 years.

The station has succeeded not only in advancing mankind's knowledge of living and working in space, but has also long represented what can be achieved when several nations work together towards a common goal in the spirit of mutual friendship and co-operation.

Sadly though, all good things must eventually come to an end and the ISS is no exception.

While the station is currently funded until 2024, after that date its future becomes uncertain. Due to its large size, once its operational lifespan is over it will need to be brought back down to Earth and dumped in the ocean to stop it from adding to the amount of space junk already in orbit.
"The future of the ISS is a big issue for NASA," said NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan. "The funding is there till 2024 but then it must start moving money to human Mars missions."

"If we keep it fully funded after 2024 it will compromise the Mars budget and by 2028 it will start failing. It is huge, the size of a football pitch, so the overall plan is to drop it into the Pacific."

Fortunately though there are already plans for a successor, possibly in orbit around the Moon.

It is also likely that private space firms will begin launching stations of their own before too long.

Source: The Australian | Comments (26)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #17 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
It's a NASA project with international cooperation. The Russians own part of the station, NASA owns the rest. Europe, Canada and Japan all effectively pay NASA (using a barter system) to use NASA's part of the station. Therefore only Russia could effectively prolong the use of PART of the station if NASA decided to scrap it. Even then it would be expensive for Russia. The two parts of the station are completely dependent on each other. The US section supplies the Russian section with electrical power, The Russia section contains the thrusters that maintain the stations altitude. Russia has sug... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by FLOMBIE 7 years ago
Thank you for that. 
Comment icon #19 Posted by Merc14 7 years ago
To add to what waspie posted, NASA is also looking at a possible new station near the Moon or even around Mars to aid deep space exploration.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Emma_Acid 7 years ago
I wasn't, I was being over-simplistic. What I meant was, I'm sure the plan has been completely thought out, and 5 years down the line someone won't say "hey, did anyone think to reuse the ISS???"
Comment icon #21 Posted by Derek Willis 7 years ago
Sorry, I thought you were. In another thread Noteverythingisaconspiracy provided some maths and technical info to explain why the ISS couldn't be sent to Mars, and the same data holds true for the Moon.
Comment icon #22 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
Why crash it into the South Pacific?  Is there not enough room in the Atlantic?
Comment icon #23 Posted by LV-426 7 years ago
Hmm... given the way F1 has gone in the last couple of years, with the horrible turbo hybrid engines being used as some kind of test bed for road car technology, I wouldn't rule it out!
Comment icon #24 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
Actually,no there isn't. The Russians (and Soviets before them) have been ditching old spacecraft and space stations (Progress, Salyut, Mir, etc) into this part of the Pacific for decades. It is extremely remote, very far from human habitation and a long way from shipping lanes. It is simply the safest place to carry out this kind of disposal.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 7 years ago
Plus the fact that most of it burn up on reentry.
Comment icon #26 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
You make any risks during reentry sound very precise and controlled but I wonder if that would be the case given the space station is the size of of the colosseum.  Anything could go wayward and probably will.  Let's hope not.

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